Americans won't have to pay to ensure their identities will be safe now. That's as of Friday Sept. 21.
A new rule created by the Trump Administration allows consumers to freeze their credit scores for free. Previously, a credit card holder had to pay a fee to each of the three main credit bureaus, Equifax (EFX) , Experian (EXPGY) , and Transunion (TRU) , before both freezing and unfreezing. While they'll still have to consult with each bureau to complete both actions, they won't have to pay a fee.
"I think its great for consumers because credit freezes are the bet way to prevent identity theft," Creditcards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman told TheStreet. "They were typically pretty expensive."
And now is certainly the time consumers need to have easy ability to prevent identity fraud or data breaches. The sheer volume of breaches and wrongdoings have reached historic levels.
A record number of people were victims of identity fraud in 2017 - 16.7 million in fact - according to Javelin Strategy and Research. That 16.7 million beat 2016's record high. The total amount thieves stole from Americans in 2017 was $16.8 billion, and 30% of consumers were notified of a data breach.
While there is almost no refuting the fact that consumers need protection against these violations, it is not clear at this juncture that the steps that have been taken are quite enough yet. There are a few obstacles in the way of people protecting themselves. While protective actions are free now, and "making these credit freezes free will hopefully lead to wider adoption," Rossman said, awareness remains at least a slight issue. "THe number one obstacle is inertia, lack of awareness," Rossman said. "For those that are informed, they're worried about logistical hurdles," he added. "You do have to contact each of these bureaus. Every time you want to get a new credit product, a car loan, a home loan, you have to unfreeze your credit." He added, "it would be nice if you could froze with one bureau."
That's only if you'd frozen your credit beforehand, of course. There is still one more step that can be taken to create a better environment for consumers, Rossman thinks.
"It would be positive if the default state for one's credit was frozen," Rossman said. "Rather than where your credit is not frozen until you say it is, it would be nice if your credit is frozen and you could opt out of it."